May 7, 2023
The weeks lately have started with our little dread party at Wendy’s place. This week we also added beads and wraps to make them snazzy. Wendy made the most fantastic garlic bread with dinner by making a garlic confit first. You may wonder if the time it takes to do this is worth it and I’m here to tell you it is.
It is week two of my class on the Science of Well Being. This week the lesson included the importance of mindfully savoring experiences and reflecting on things we are grateful for each day. I thought this would be a breeze, but it actually does take some intention. I will say that perhaps it kept me a little more upbeat in the early part of the week, but lack of sleep, being busy, and fending off the cold that Luke has may have run me down a bit at the end of this week. The interesting part of the lesson this week was the presentation of data that was offered about what really makes us happy. The students in the video all predicted that the things that would make them happiest would be good grades, landing an internship, making lots of money or getting a good job, or other material things they wanted. This is also the message we receive often in our culture. Our dutiful researchers have uncovered that it turns out that none of these things really have a marked effect on happiness. This is actually not a new revelation. Harvard completed a longitudinal study in 2017 that shared the same findings. Happiness is more influenced by positive relationships, having a job or hobby that you love and find challenging, and volunteering or other prosocial behaviors to show kindness to others. Perhaps you already know this. If you don’t though, maybe you will think about it and sign up for the free class too.
I thought about the importance of savoring on my hike this week to Upper Calf Creek Falls. The hike to the falls felt less steep to me as this was the second time I was doing it. Going down was easier this time and I stopped to notice the Indian Paintbrush inconceivably blooming out of slick rock. We stopped to appreciate the falls and then hiked onto the pools.
Our friend Emma does not seem to be bothered by the cold so she took a swim in the frigid water. Everyone else basked in the sun.
The dogs had a great day there too.
I savored the climb back out up a steep elevation gain of 600 feet in just over a mile as I did have to stop to catch my breath several times. I reflected on my gratitude for these wild and peaceful spaces that offer stunning views for us like the one in our cover photo this week. The longer I am here, the more I learn about and appreciate what it means to have protected wilderness like this. Just for funsies, here’s a group photo I shot with the timer and one last shot of the streams trickling into pools there.
Have you ever met a purple lady? I have met a few and several of my New England friends have also met at least one. I don’t know if this is really what they call themselves, but it is the kind of woman who dresses in all purple with purple accessories all the time. Some have also colored their hair purple or the purple extends to their surroundings too like car decor, office supplies, or home decor. It occurred to me recently that I haven’t encountered a single purple lady since we’ve been on the road. It made me wonder about this fun phenomenon. What causes this behavior? Is it confined to New England or the Eastern states? We have some new neighbors that we had a little campfire with this week. When I brought up these important questions one gentleman suggested that it may be because violet has the highest frequency. Colors can evoke emotion for us which is truly interesting. Purple is commonly associated with royalty or fantasy and magic. For some reason purple is the only color I have seen grown women be fanatics about.
Our friend Ana came over to bake again and this time made the most beautiful and delicious pumpkin chocolate chip muffins. Sadly I did not take a photo to share before devouring mine. Ana has lots of big ideas lately. This particular day she talked about getting a small pet and had been looking into getting a chicken. Since Ana lives in an RV, we advised that she would end up with a mess of chicken shit in her camper if she did so. That was when she taught us about chicken pants to help control the mess. Have you seen anything better than this lately?
A local hotel has their garden’s in bloom and asked me to come snap some photos this week. This was also something to savor.
At the end of this week one of our rangers for the BLM had put together a Junior Ranger Day for the local school and we had over a 100 kids attend. At first I was asked to be Smokey’s assistant, but plans changed and I was put in charge of the scavenger hunt. The BLM, NFS, and Glen Canyon Conservancy all worked together to put together short presentations and games to teach the kids about the geology, paleontology, botany, Leave no Trace principles, preparedness for hiking and camping, and fire safety at the Grand Staircase. The kids were all excited for the field trip and well behaved. At the end they were sworn in as Junior Rangers and given badges. Though I was not Smokey’s assistant, we did stick by each other for the day as he was present for each scavenger hunt we ran. Smokey is a great hero for lots of kids who may end up becoming rangers in adulthood. Some of the kids who attended shared that this was their dream for the future. By the end of the program, I was buds with Smokey. This is how you become friends with a bear. Volunteer for your local Forest Service or BLM (if you are lucky to live in a place with these protected lands) and you may be surprised at what opportunities it brings you.
Jennifer MacNeil is currently traveling the US with her husband and two dogs. She loves to have adventures, explore, meet fascinating people, and see amazing places. She strives to learn every day and spread kindness to others. She documents her journey through her photography and blog to share with others.